Several posts have circulated for years that instruct citizens to send holiday cards to “A Recovering American Soldier” at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, while other messages have mentioned a similar program from the Red Cross. Today we’ll look at the fact and fiction behind these claims.
The Walter Reed information is false, but the Red Cross does allow holiday cards to be sent to unnamed soldiers.
Let’s first take a look at the incorrect Walter Reed information which has circulated for years:
When you are making out your Christmas card list this year, please include the following:
A Recovering American Soldier
c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center
6900 Georgia Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20307-5001
If you approve of the idea, please pass it along to your e-mail list.
Perhaps the most important piece of information regarding the graphic above is that Walter Reed Army Medical Center closed on August 27, 2011. When the rumor above first circulated, NBC News quoted a spokesman for Walter Reed, who stated, “We cannot accept any mail that is not specifically addressed to an individual or an organization at the medical center.” The spokesman also stated that such anonymous mail would be returned.
The United States Post Office has also said that anonymous mail cannot be delivered. In its 2008 FAQ, the USPS noted that programs which allowed the public to mail anonymous gifts or cards to military personnel was discontinued after the September 11 attacks.
The “Holiday Mail for Heroes” program from the Red Cross does distribute anonymous cards to soldiers. Its website states that in 2015, “The Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes program enables Americans to ‘Give Something That Means Something’ this holiday season. We are inviting the public to send cards of thanks, encouragement and holiday cheer to members of our U.S. Armed Forces, veterans and military families, many of whom will be far away from home this holiday season.”
In years past, the Red Cross allowed citizens to mail cards to a national PO Box, but that has since been closed. Instead, cards will now be collected at local offices. The format was changed due to a reduction in overseas military, and increased costs of conducting the program.
Sending cards to unnamed soldiers can be achieved through the Red Cross at events held at local Red Cross offices, but not at the now-closed Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
- Don’t send a card to a recovering soldier (Herb Weisbaum, NBC News: December 6, 2007)
- Holiday Mail for Heroes (Red Cross)
Revised November 12, 2015
Originally published October 2013